Let me start off by saying that Musical Theater is my happy place (mostly because I firmly believe that my life would be a lot better if I were allowed to burst into song occasionally and have people dance around me). This weekend I had the chance to go see In The Heights at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. I've been excited about this show since I saw it win the Tony for Best Musical (among other things) in 2008, and couldn't wait to see the first national tour. The show is a blend of Hip-Hop, Rap, and Latin music that makes even me want to get up and dance. Which, considering that the last time I wanted to dance was at a college semi-formal where copious amounts of liquid made me think it would be a good idea to "shake my groove thing", is a pretty amazing feat.
The tour is led by Kyle Beltran (who just graduated from college in 09...how incredible). Beltran plays the lead role of Usnavi (originated by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer/lyricist of In the Heights). Although skeptical of anyone else in that role, I was completely convinced before the end of the opening number. His absolute enthusiasm on the stage made him a joy to watch. Not to be outdone, the rest of the cast delivered performances that were all their own while still remaining true to the characters that the Broadway cast has brought to life. Isabel Santiago (Daniela) was particularly amazing to watch, so much so that it is utterly impossible for me to imagine her as anything but her character. Aside from a spectacular voice, she has seemingly perfect comedic timing and delivered each line impeccably. Natalie Toro (Camila) was equally amazing and made me never, ever want to tick her off! Shaun Taylor-Corbett (Sonny) was fantastic and funny, and could garner laughs from the audience without saying a word.
I could talk about every cast member, as well as the crew, because they all put 100% of themselves into the show and made it incredible, so much so that after seeing it on Friday night I splurged and bought tickets to see it again on Saturday afternoon (totally worth it, budget be damned)!
I am actually very glad that I saw it again on Saturday because an interesting little thing happened. After the intermission, which seemed to last an extra long time, an announcement was made that the role of Usnavi would now be played by Shaun Taylor-Corbett. It was particularly fascinating for a dork like me to see how he was able to go from playing Sonny in the first act, to Usnavi in the second act (although I did wonder what prompted the change). He did a great job and I loved seeing how everything about him, from his tone of voice to the way he carried himself across the stage changed completly for this new character. I understand that this is what actors do, but seeing it so literally on the stage was particularly awesome.
If the tour is coming anywhere near you, you should seriously check it out. And, if you don't want to go alone, give me a call. After all, I've already blown the budget once, might as well do it again!